AUBURN — A Lewiston woman who food shopped for disabled and homeless men will spend a week in jail for using their electronic food benefits without state authorization.

Roberta Ishola, 51, of 70 Blake St. was charged this past spring with three counts of misusing public benefits, a misdemeanor crime. She also was charged with unlawful possession of a scheduled drug. That charge was later dropped.

Assistant Attorney General David Fisher said Tuesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court that Ishola had been given the EBT cards to do food shopping for the three men. Under state law, no one but the named cardholder may use the state-issued EBT card for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP benefits without prior approval by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Fisher later told the Sun Journal that two of the men were homeless and had no means of transportation. Another cardholder was disabled and was unable to get to the supermarket.

Although the three men had given Ishola permission, in affidavits, to shop with their cards for them, she hadn’t gotten authorization from DHHS.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of misuse and was sentenced Tuesday to six months in jail, with all but seven days suspended. She is scheduled to start serving that sentence on Dec. 15. Until then, she remains free on personal recognizance bail.

She had faced up to 364 days in jail on each of the charges.

A judge also imposed one year of probation on Ishola, but a court clerk said that term would be changed to administrative release because the crimes of which Ishola was convicted don’t allow for probation. While on administrative release, Ishola will be barred from having illegal drugs and can be searched for drugs if she is suspected of having them. She also will be prohibited from using EBT cards that she is not authorized by DHHS to use.

Prosecutors dropped a drug charge stemming from Ishola’s possession of four Adderall pills, prescribed to her grandson. Adderall is sometimes used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ishola has power of attorney over her grandson, according to her attorney.

Meanwhile, Daniel Dube, Ishola’s attorney, told the Sun Journal that food security is a serious problem. He said he plans to work with local legislators to try to change state law so that friends and family members seeking to lend a hand to those in need of food who lack means of transportation aren’t punished for their good intentions.

Ishola had secured at a DHHS office in Lewiston authorization for a fourth cardholder by appearing at that office with him, but not for the other three, Dube said.

“I think the statute evinces a lack of awareness on the part of the drafters and the legislators who approved that as to how families who have marginal finances are in the lower socioeconomic levels — as is common in Lewiston-Auburn — function,” Dube said. “The way they get by is in relying on each other. My client happened to be the healthiest and to have a little more than the next person and a working vehicle and some extra time on her hands, so she, as a favor, shopped for others.”

John Martins, a spokesman for DHHS, said federal regulations dictate that “any authorized user can use the (EBT) card to purchase food on behalf of a person or household, as long as they have permission from the cardholder and the personal identification number (PIN) for the EBT card.”

He noted the authorized user cannot use the card to buy items for themselves.

Martins said the cardholder can authorize someone by making the request to let another person purchase on his or her behalf and by sharing his or her pin number.

“There is no formal approval process required by the federal government,” he said.

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